CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A now-former Charlottesville police officer is named in a federal lawsuit after he unlawfully detained a man in January.
The incident captured on the body camera of former officer Joseph Wood showed that he unlawfully detained LaQuinn Gilmore, actions the Charlottesville Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit called “unreasonable.” Now, the incident is the subject of a federal suit filed by Jeffrey Fogel.
“Dammit, if we have a police officer who illegally detains, searches, and assaults somebody, there ought to be some recognition that that is a crime,” said Fogel, who is representing Gilmore.
The six-page lawsuit alleges some of what the city’s own Internal Affairs Unit found: that Wood did unlawfully detain Gilmore. The lawsuit also says Wood’s actions constituted assault and battery. Gilmore suffered a closed-head injury with a concussion, plus leg and back injuries, according to emergency room documents.
Now, Fogel wants financial compensation for his client.
“Although the city Internal Affairs Department found that most of these things were illegal, [the] city doesn’t offer any compensation for people... who have been harmed by employees of the city, not even for their medical bills,” he said.
The suit also says Gilmore’s First Amendment rights were violated. Wood was heading back to his car when Gilmore said “Y’all be playing too much man.” He was referring to the cops, the suit said.
That prompted Wood to turn around and ask for Gilmore’s license.
“What happened was in retaliation for something Mr. Gilmore had a right to say into his own phone,” Fogel said.
The suit also alleges violations of the Fourth and 14th Amendments.
Charlottesville’s top prosecutor Joe Platania is not prosecuting Wood criminally, and that’s upsetting to Fogel.
“The message that’s given by his failure to say anything is that I won’t prosecute officers unless, well I don’t know what the unless is,” Fogel said.
Platania, who has prosecuted one Charlottesville police officer during his term as the city’s commonwealth’s attorney, says his decision not to prosecute Wood won’t have any bearing on the civil suit.
The Charlottesville Police Department declined to comment on the lawsuit.